Ever so slowly over the last decade, Oakland, California’s revitalization has transformed once edgy neighborhoods into beacons for maker boutiques, artisanal coffee roasters and craft brewers, innovative restaurants rated on a sliding scale from foodie haven to food truck, and eclectic cocktail bars where bartenders are mixologists and all the patrons are young, arty, and hip. Cool hunters should take a least a day to explore the forward-looking edges of the Oakland scene.
Though the moniker “Brooklyn by the Bay” is a label that locals don’t love, it may seem fitting when you walk with Oakland’s hipsters on the streets of neon-lit Uptown or the indie Temescal neighborhood. Fashionable professional couples push strollers down College Avenue in Rockridge, a stylish strip that blends almost seamlessly – except for the interruption of BART train tracks – into Elmwood, where university students gather just across the Berkeley border. For cutting-edge cool, poke around the warehouse district by Jack London Square, Old Oakland west of downtown, and even some hot spots in West Oakland.
Get a lazy start to your morning around 10 a.m. with a Gibraltar or a New Orleans chicory iced coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee Co. The original location is in a warehouse down near Jack London Square, but their high-ceilinged cafe inside the beautiful art-deco W.C. Morse Building on Broadway, north of downtown, has much more room to sit down and socialize.
When you’ve dusted off the crumbs of that last baked good, walk three blocks north on Broadway, then cross west onto College Avenue, Rockridge’s main shopping street. Peruse rare vintage fashions at Pretty Penny, local writers’ books at Diesel, and artisanal foodstuffs made in the Bay Area at Rockridge Market Hall. Keep wandering up College Ave., north of the Rockridge BART station, into Elmwood for more creative boutiques.
It’s time for lunch. Take a pleasant 20-minute walk through residential streets lined with early 20th-century bungalows from Rockridge southwest to Temescal’s main drag, Telegraph Ave., stretching south of 51st St. Join the line for Baja-style fish tacos or other Latin American bites at Cholita Linda, then duck into the Temescal Alleys for dessert from Doughnut Dolly and to check out a few of Oakland’s trendiest shops. Stroll south down Telegraph Ave., passing cafes, bars, and boutiques.
Around 40th St., either catch AC Transit bus 1 to downtown Oakland or hop on a BART train from MacArthur Station to Oakland’s 12th St./City Center station. (For more Transportation details see Oakland and Around (in the yellow bar). Stop into Oaklandish, where urban styles are made for those who proclaim, “I hella love Oakland.” Pick up a graphic hoodie, hat, or T-shirt printed with the Port of Oakland’s cranes or the city’s official symbol, an oak tree with a canopy of spreading branches and deep, tangled roots.
Nighttime is the most atmospheric time to explore Oakland’s trendiest neighborhood, Uptown. Things get busy during First Fridays street fests, but otherwise you won’t have to fight any crowds here yet.
For happy hour, grab a craft beer in the outdoor courtyard with conversational fire pits at Drake’s Dealership or play bocce ball with a cocktail in hand at Make Westing. For dinner, you’ve made reservations at Hopscotch, right? If not, then maybe you should detour down to Abura-Ya. After dinner, with tickets that you smartly bought in advance, catch a show at the Fox Theater or the Paramount Theatre, or else head over to the New Parkway Theater for movie, trivia, or bingo night. For a nightcap, retro-styled Dogwood and the eternally divey Cafe van Kleef keep their doors open until 2 a.m.